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Financial Stress Plagues Honolulu Rail

The Honolulu Rail Transit Project was slated to cost $5.2 billion. That figure has doubled as construction progresses, leaving the city scrambling for funds amid public outcry.
August 4, 2017, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Daniel Ramirez

There's a lot of trouble afoot for Honolulu's attempt at traffic-easing transit. Brittany Lyte writes, "In a bid to unsnarl its highways a bit in 2011, the city embarked on a $5.2 billion Honolulu Rail Transit Project. At the time, the planned 20-mile elevated electric train line was expected to ease traffic congestion on Hawaii's most densely populated island by 18 percent, with the first trips planned for 2017."

Six years on, costs have ballooned to $10 billion and rising. "Per capita, the Honolulu rail could become the most expensive transit project in U.S. history, according to the conservative public policy think tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii." 

Will the hugely expensive undertaking actually justify its costs? Estimates say no, predicting only a few percentage points of decreased traffic amid a net increase. Local politicians, including Democrats, are calling for a stop to the bleeding via the withdrawal of federal support, but others feel it's already too late.

Lyte points to transit projects in New Jersey and Maryland that were scuttled due to financial strain and legal challenges.

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Published on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 in CityLab
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